At the beginning of 1803, the United States was a bustling collection of states and territories huddled along the east coast. Then, with one transaction, President Thomas Jefferson effectively doubled the size of the country. The Virginian paid $15 million for the roughly 830,000 square mile parcel. That would be about $345 million and change today. It’s still a pretty good deal when you consider that the Louisiana Purchase survey added enough territory to contribute to 14 future states, including Texas.
Of course, when Jefferson made the deal, none of that information was known. In fact, Jefferson and his administration weren’t even entirely sure how big the Louisiana Purchase was. That meant hiring land surveyors to determine what had actually been purchased. Eventually, the Louisiana Purchase Survey in Texas and the middle states would form the heart of the U.S.
The deal itself
When the $15 million number was agreed upon between Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon Bonaparte for the land that would become known as the Louisiana Purchase, the United States wasn’t agreeing to pony up the whole amount. Instead, Jefferson shelled out $11.2 million and then assumed some of France’s debt. That works out to about three cents an acre for the 512 million acres in the Louisiana Purchase.
Napoleon went on to squander his payout by trying to establish a sprawling French Empire. Jefferson, meanwhile, celebrated the purchase by sending out what would become one of the most famous adventures in U.S. history: the Lewis and Clark Expedition. While certainly notable, the Lewis and Clark Expedition mostly busied itself meeting the Native American populations and recording flora and fauna of the region. The real surveys didn’t come until nearly a decade later.
Robbins and Brown
After the Lewis and Clark Expedition ended in 1806, the Louisiana Purchase remained untouched until 1815. President James Monroe commissioned two veteran land surveyors following the War of 1812. The men, Prospect Robbins and Joseph Brown, began in Arkansas and moved east.
The Louisiana Purchase survey ruffled some feathers. The people occupying that territory would soon prove to have issues with the border decisions made by Robbins and Brown.
For the most part, the survey conducted by Robbins and Brown was a big success. The two surveyors and their team covered most of the area that would become Arkansas, the Dakotas, Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota. They also inspected territory that would eventually form parts of several other states.
Your trusted surveyors
The Louisiana Purchase survey set the stage for a drama that would eventually fold the Republic of Texas into the greater United States. It was that critical.
At D.G. Smyth & Co., Inc., we understand the extraordinary importance of land surveys in everyday life. Since 1977, we have proudly stood for excellence in the world of land surveying. Regardless of your needs, our highly skilled team can get the job done. We’re happy to conduct surveys for residential, commercial and oil and gas clients. Reach out to us today to find out more.